After about the twentieth blackout in this fifty-minute play, I was beginning to think that what I was seeing was notso hotso. Simultaneously, though, I realized that perhaps the other four people in the audience were enjoying it much more than I was. And at once I confronted The Reviewer’s Dilemma. Art is inherently subjective, and one reviewer’s incomprehensible pile of whatnot might well be another reviewer’s Artistic Gem. What to do?
Here is what has happened on stage to that point: K (Hazel Hernandez) is pointing a gun at the audience. Actually, it is her finger, but it represents a gun, see. The other characters urge her not to fire, but to do something else instead. Blackout. Then D (Jenna McCarthy) appears to be teaching a class, the subject of which is K. It is unclear what she is saying, since everyone speaks in half-completed sentences. K shows up and asks why they are talking about her in her absence. M (Robert King) and T (playwright Stephen Forrest Notes) profess to love her. Blackout. Then they are exercising. M is doing pushups. D sits on his back and says suggestive things to him. Blackout. Two sock puppets, both worn by T, get into a fight. Then a sock puppet worn by D tells another sock puppet, also worn by D, about how she seduced an underage woman. Blackout. And so on.
I hope I do not give anything away by revealing that eventually K shoots a fully-loaded finger at M, bringing him down. Unfortunately, M has not yet engaged our sympathies, or shown why he is better than any of the other letters of the alphabet, and so I don’t care. Better M than ME, I think.
As for performances, McCarthy intermittently gives good line reads but does not sustain a character. This I blame more on the playwright than on her. Hernandez is too soft-spoken to be consistently heard over the music. The others – eh.
So I’m not liking it, but that may be due to my lack of artistic sensibility. You may be much brighter than I am (likely), and thus be able to discern meaning from this play (less likely). Hell, perhaps Mr. Notes is the reincarnation of Samuel Beckett, and every word is pregnant with a universe of meaning (less likely still). So how do I explain that while the play may be lost to plodding linear thinkers like myself, others might well be enlightened, even thrilled by it?
Then I thought of a device that my colleague Josh Fixler invented for his review of The A Cappella Party – the if-then rubric. (The Federal Government also used this device back when they were trying to write regulations in the plain language. They’ve given that up, if you haven’t noticed). Identify yourself on the left side of the rubric, and then go to the right to see whether you should go to the show.
|You think all words mean the same thing||You should probably go to this show|
|You think the laws of physics are just suggestions||You should consider going to this show|
|You’d like to throttle that Aristotle||You should definitely go to this show|
|You don’t fall into any of the above categories||Maybe not|